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Title: Magnetic braking saturates: evidence from the orbital period distribution of low-mass detached eclipsing binaries from ZTF

We constrain the orbital period (Porb) distribution of low-mass detached main-sequence eclipsing binaries (EBs) with light-curves from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), which provides a well-understood selection function and sensitivity to faint stars. At short periods (Porb ≲ 2 d), binaries are predicted to evolve significantly due to magnetic braking (MB), which shrinks orbits and ultimately brings detached binaries into contact. The period distribution is thus a sensitive probe of MB. We find that the intrinsic period distribution of low-mass (0.1 ≲ M1/M⊙ < 0.9) binaries is basically flat (${\rm d}N/{\rm d}P_{\rm orb} \propto P_{\rm orb}^0$) from Porb = 10 d down to the contact limit. This is strongly inconsistent with predictions of classical MB models based on the Skumanich relation, which are widely used in binary evolution calculations and predict ${\rm d}N/{\rm d}P_{\rm orb} \propto P_{\rm orb}^{7/3}$ at short periods. The observed distributions are best reproduced by models in which the magnetic field saturates at short periods with a MB torque that scales roughly as $\dot{J}\propto P_{\rm orb}^{-1}$, as opposed to $\dot{J} \propto P_{\rm orb}^{-3}$ in the standard Skumanich law. We also find no significant difference between the period distributions of binaries containing fully and partially convective stars. Our results confirm more » that a saturated MB law, which was previously found to describe the spin-down of rapidly rotating isolated M dwarfs, also operates in tidally locked binaries. We advocate using saturated MB models in binary evolution calculations. Our work supports previous suggestions that MB in cataclysmic variables (CVs) is much weaker than assumed in the standard evolutionary model, unless mass transfer leads to significant additional angular momentum loss in CVs.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 4916-4939
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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